Soft tissue sarcomas (STS) are a rare, heterogeneous tumour group. Radiotherapy improves local control. Computed tomography (CT) is used to plan radiotherapy, but has poor soft tissue definition. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has superior soft tissue definition. Contour variation amongst oncologists is an important factor in treatment failure. This study is the first to directly compare STS tumour contouring using CT versus MRI.
Planning CT and T2-weighted MR images of eight patients with STS were distributed to four oncologists. Gross tumour volume (GTV) was contoured on both imaging modalities using in-house software. Images were re-contoured six weeks later. The mean distance to agreement (mDTA), standard deviation (SD) of the DTA, Dice similarity coefficient (DSC) and contour volume were calculated for each oncologist and compared to a median contour volume. Results for CT and MRI were compared using a pairwise Student t-test.
When comparing MRI to CT, tumour volumes were significantly smaller, with a difference of 21.4 cm3 across all patients (p = 0.008). There was not a statistically significant difference in the mDTA or DSC, but the SD of the DTA showed a statistically significant improvement (p = 0.04). For intra-observer variation, there was no statistically significant improvement using MRI versus CT.
Oncologists contour smaller tumour volumes using MRI, with reduced inter-observer variation. Improving the reliability and consistency of contouring is needed for improved quality assurance.
Advances in Knowledge
With further experience, the use of MRI in STS radiotherapy planning may reduce variation between oncologists and contribute to improved local control and reduced treatment toxicities.